What marketers need to know about the latest social media platform

We take a look into TikTok, the short form video platform gaining ground with generation Z

Each year, dozens of new social platforms are launched with the hope of becoming the next Snapchat, Pinterest or YouTube.

The question for marketers is always at what stage do they become worth engaging with. Get in too early and you risk wasting time and money on a platform that might quickly fall out of favour. Wait too long, however, and the risk becomes that of drowning in a crowded market.

The latest platform to reach that tipping point is the TikTok, an app for sharing short form video which promotes itself as a platform for capturing the world's creativity, knowledge and moments that matter. Short form video is proving to be big business, with analyst firm, Forrester, forecasting short video ad spending will reach US$6.5 billion in 2020, from US$2.1 billion in 2018.

Originally launched in China in 2016 as Douyin, TikTok launched outside of China in 2017 and became the most downloaded app in the US in October 2018. It is now available in more than 150 markets and 75 languages.

For most marketers, however, it remains a mystery. But for digital media veteran and VidCon CEO, Jim Louderback, TikTok represents an interesting new development in the world of online video.

Speaking ahead of his appearance at the VidCon conference in Melbourne in September, Louderback said TikTok represented a fun and natural way for creators to express themselves that had proven highly popular among Generation Z creators and consumers.

“With YouTube you really have to craft a finely developed piece of content, or on Instagram, have to craft your best self,” Louderback told CMO. “The nice thing TikTok does is it allows you to create and post in a much more relaxed way. On TikTok, it is much easier to be yourself and put stuff up there.”

TikTok employs machine learning to understand what consumers like, then serves video content it thinks will keep those consumers watching.

“Everybody’s experience on platform is different, and the more you use it, the more it gets to know what you like,” Louderback said.

The key difference between TikTok and other platforms is how it is curated. Rather than being a free-for-all, TikTok is programmed around specific challenges or hashtags or memes, which are fed to creators. TikTok then pulls together curated versions of the resultant creative output.

A recent example was the global #TikTokTravel challenge, which invited users to capture and share memorable travel moments. An Australian-specific version of the challenge encouraged them create and share videos of their favourite Australian landmark, food or experience using the hashtag, #ThisIsAussie. This local activation quickly accumulated 3.2 million views and 605 posts from travellers and content creators.

Louderback suggests it is through embracing the curated model that marketers can derive the best results from the platform, rather than using traditional campaign strategies.

“You need to craft your message and messaging to the way that people are creating and consuming content on the platform,” he said. “That deliberate programming of the platform is something that sets it apart and is a trend we are going to see more of.”

Given its early stage of development, Louderback said TikTok lacks many of the supporting tools that marketers might expect when creating and managing campaigns. However, those who dive in now will find themselves in a relatively uncluttered market.

“It is a great place to learn now, and you will be able to apply those learning as the platform grows and adds new capabilities for brands to engage,” Louderback said.

Numerous brands have already taken on the challenge, including Sony Pictures and numerous fashion labels. During June and July, clothing brand, Uniqlo, worked with TikTok to market its new UT collection of graphic t-shirts.

Users were encouraged to upload videos to their TikTok profile wearing their favourite UT outfit with the hashtag, #UTPlayYourWorld, and winners of the challenge had their videos appear on Uniqlo in-store monitors around the world.

Apparel brand, Guess, also partnered with TikTok to market its Autumn season denim collection by encouraging users to create and share videos using the hashtag, #InMyDenim, to the song ‘I’m A Mess’ by Bebe Rexha. During the six-day campaign, Guess’ newly created TikTok account accumulated more than 12,000 followers and 10.5 million video views, with the challenge delivering more than 5000 entries.

The Australian angle

TikTok is only just commencing brand engagement work in Australia. In June, it launched its #Cricketmania challenge to coincide with Australia’s match against India on 8 June 2019 at the ICC Cricket World Cup. In July, Samsung promoted its #SponsoredPost campaign for the Galaxy A Series smartphone range across numerous social platforms including TikTok.

Louderback suggested now is a good time for Australian marketers to start dipping their toes in. But he also advised taking the time to understand the platform first.

“The best way to do it is to work with existing creators on the platform who are good, where you are in the voice of the creator and enabling the creator to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do,” Louderback said.

“You need to be aware of where the platform is being programmed to, you need to be aware of what the creators that you want to align to want to do, and then you have to make a long-term commitment to work with those creators to find the right intersection of those things that are going to appeal to that audience.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.      

 

 

 

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